+ A year ago, Sheryl Crow promised EW that her next CD would be 100 percent pure country. But based on a preview of Detours (out in February), it’s clear that plan got derailed. ”I just could not edit myself,” she laughs, referring to the album’s antiwar politics. ”I’m sure country radio will be going, ‘Maybe not this record.’ It’s about how I feel things are going in the world and what’s happened to me the last couple of years?the end of a relationship, adopting a baby. Even the personal [songs] tie in to political stuff.” Indeed, the opening cut refers to ”a war based on lies,” while the disc’s final sound is a gurgling infant. ”Diamond Ring” alludes to her split from Lance Armstrong (key line: ”Diamond ring/F—s up everything”). She did recommit to another ex: Bill Bottrell, who produced her debut, 1993’s Tuesday Night Music Club. They became estranged during aborted sessions for her second album but reunited to work on Detours, her best-sounding work in nearly a decade. ”We had an unbelievable time,” she says.
+ Michael Jackson has enlisted collaborator du jour Akon — who’s already had a hand in hits by Gwen Stefani and 50 Cent — for his next album. Akon tells HI, ”We’re trying something he’s never done before. That’s the challenge. There’s not too much Michael Jackson hasn’t covered. Be ready for it.” Akon says Jackson will self-release the album, but no date’s been set: ”It’s Mike. He doesn’t need a label to distribute.”
+ No Doubt are polishing off the songs, basic tracks, and album art for their reunion record, their first studio set since 2001. But there’s one thing left to do: Gwen Stefani still needs to record the vocals.
+ Shantaram, the Johnny Depp drama to be directed by Mira Nair, is the latest casualty of the writers’ strike. The production was set to shoot in India in February but is now being pushed back, according to Warner Bros., because the script needs work. Weather is also to blame: Script delays could put the shoot in the middle of India’s monsoon season. No new start date has been given, but heavy rains typically run until September.
+ Director Rob Marshall‘s movie version of the Broadway musical Nine, based on Federico Fellini’s 8 1/2, is also on hold. A source close to the production tells us that the process of making a movie musical is too complicated without the ongoing input of a writer, since dialogue and choreography go hand in hand. Shooting on the film, set to star Javier Bardem, Penélope Cruz, Sophia Loren, and La Vie en Rose star Marion Cotillard, will now be delayed until the second half of 2008.
+ While the strike could throw a wrench into all current development, ABC has a provocative new drama in the works that’s based loosely on Stephen King‘s 2005 mystery novel The Colorado Kid. The author and EW columnist describes the script, from The Dead Zone‘s Sam Ernst and Jim Dunn, as ”closer to The X-Files than Supernatural.” King will have a small stake in the show (currently dubbed Sanctuary) should it go to series, ”but it’s not something that keeps me up nights, the way Kingdom Hospital did.”